NBA Finals 2023: Denver Nuggets Beat Miami Heat for First Championship

When Murray stood on the stage after Game 5, having finally won, ESPN’s Lisa Salters asked him about his journey, about how he couldn’t even walk two years ago today because of his knee injury. As she spoke, the crowd’s cheers drowned out her voice. Murray paused and looked up at them. Tears filled his reddened eyes.

“Everything was hitting at once,” Murray said later. “From the journey, to the celebration with the guys, to enjoying the moment, to looking back on the rehab, to looking back at myself as a kid.”

Malone’s mind was already on the next championship.

Pat Riley, the president of the Miami Heat, who has won nine N.B.A. championships as either a player, assistant coach, head coach or executive, once shared with Malone a message that Malone used to have displayed in his office.

“It talked about the evolution in this game and how you go from a nobody to an upstart, and you go from an upstart to a winner and a winner to a contender and a contender to a champion,” Malone said. “And the last step is after a champion is to be a dynasty.”

But his players weren’t ready to think about that yet. As he spoke, they were dousing the locker room and each other with champagne, drops of which sprinkled from the Nuggets logo on the ceiling. The players lit cigars, adding the heavy scent of cigar smoke to their celebration.

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